Trump's State of the Union guests highlight agenda, send political messages

President Trump hasn't yet delivered his State of the Union address, but the first family's guest list offers a clear roadmap of the big issues the president intends to cover during the primetime event.

Each guest highlights a theme the president is likely to touch on Tuesday night. The 13 invitees represent the major issues -- and accomplishments -- Trump intends to highlight, spanning everything from prison reform to tax cuts and immigration.


Hanging over Trump’s speech is the crisis at the country’s southern border and the deadlock with lawmakers over how to address it. Trump's push for billions in border-wall funding -- and Democrats' refusal to go along -- triggered a government shutdown that lasted over a month and resulted in the State of the Union itself being delayed. Trump delivers his speech at a time when lawmakers are trying to come up with a funding compromise and avert a second shutdown in mid-February.

Debra Bissell, Heather Armstrong and Madison Armstrong

Debra Bissell, Heather Armstrong and Madison Armstrong

Signaling he has no plans to back down on the border security push, the president has invited Debra Bissell, Heather Armstrong and Madison Armstrong. Bissell’s parents Gerald and Sharon David were killed in their Nevada home in January, allegedly by an illegal immigrant. Heather Armstrong is Bissell’s daughter and Madison Armstrong is Bissell’s granddaughter.

For their part, Democratic lawmakers have invited refugees and immigrants, including two former employees who worked at Trump's golf club in New Jersey while they were illegal immigrants, as their guests. Republicans have been handing out their tickets to law enforcement officers who work on or near the border.


The president will also highlight two of his legislative victories this year: a sweeping bipartisan criminal justice reform bill and a package of policies aiming to curb the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Alice Johnson will be on hand to help humanize the First Step Act, which Trump signed in June. The law gives federal judges more leeway when sentencing some drug offenders and boosts prisoner rehabilitation efforts. It also reduces life sentences for some drug offenders with three convictions and incentivizes prisoners to participate in programs designed to reduce the risk of recidivism.

The 63-year-old mother of five and grandmother of six was convicted in 1996 on five counts of drug trafficking and one count of money laundering. Her sentence was reversed in June after reality TV star Kim Kardashian West met with Trump at the White House to plead for clemency.

Kim Kardashian West and Alice Johnson.

Kim Kardashian West and Alice Johnson. (Getty Images)

Trump has also invited Ashley Evans, an Ohio woman in recovery from opioid abuse, as his guest. Evans, who has struggled with substance abuse for much of her life, suffered a relapse in 2017. After the birth of her daughter and with the help of Brigid’s Path, a medical care facility in Kettering, Evans has been able to overcome many obstacles to maintain her sobriety.

The president is also expected to use some of his televised address to showcase a growing economy. Despite the recent shutdown, the U.S. economy added a robust 304,000 jobs in January, marking 100 straight months of job growth.

Mississippi plant manager Roy James will be on hand to highlight the administration’s tax cuts and jobs act, specifically its Opportunity Zones program. James worked at the Vicksburg Forest Products lumber facility for 26 years and rose in rank to become the vice president of operations before being told the sawmill would close its doors forever. Yet that didn’t happen because Vicksburg was designated an Opportunity Zone, allowing its doors to reopen. James was eventually rehired to oversee the entire facility.

Mississippi plant manager Roy James will be on hand to highlight the administration’s Opportunity Zones program.

Mississippi plant manager Roy James will be on hand to highlight the administration’s Opportunity Zones program.

Trump is also expected to call for unity and will likely use the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting to bring up anti-Semitism or hate crimes in general. He’s invited Timothy Matson, a Pittsburgh police officer, who suffered multiple gunshot wounds and saved “countless lives” during the October attack. Trump’s also invited Judah Samet, a member of the Tree of Life Synagogue. Samet survived the horrific shooting that killed 11 members of his community.

Also in attendance will be Joshua Trump, a sixth grader from Wilmington, Delaware. The 11-year-old has been bullied at school because of his famous last name.

Josh Trump, 11, has been bullied for having the same last name as President Trump. (White House)

Josh Trump, 11, has been bullied for having the same last name as President Trump. (White House)

“They curse at him, they call him an idiot, they call him stupid,” his mother Megan Trump told WPVI in December. “He said he hates himself and he hates his last name, and he feels sad all the time.”


But according to the White House, the middle schooler now says he’s “thankful” to the first lady and the Trump family for their support.